how-to make a ‘usb battery’

usb battery

found out yesterday that there’s a shuffle shortage and gadget battery life can only be expected to get worse.  bummer.  at least you can make the most of your waiting-for-shuffle blues and solder yourself a ‘usb battery’.  this little gizmo runs off a 9 volt battery and supplies your favorite little device with the proper 5 volts of mobile power.

in lieu of running an ipod off of it, i tested it with an mpx220 smartphone and it should work fine with any low power mobile device that can charge via usb cable.  read more for instructions on how to make your own.

here’s what you need to scrounge up:

  • 5.1v zener diode.

  • 100ohm or slightly greater resistor.  all i had was a 330ohm which works.  don’t try anything lower than 100ohm.

  • 9v battery connector and 9v battery.

  • flat female usb connector that mates with your device’s usb cable.  this is the hardest part to find.  i tore mine off an old usb extension cable.


wire it up
usb battery wiring

connect everything up as shown.  a board makes it easy, but in a pinch you could just wrap ends together.  the top two wires go to the battery and the bottom two are connected to the female half of the usb cable i butchered.  polarity matters on the diode, so check your work.

test it
usb battery voltage check
connect the battery and test the voltage over the diode.  it should be close to 5 volts.  if not, make sure you have everything wired correctly (pay special attention to the polarity of the diode).

try it
usb battery mpx220 test

still waiting for an ipod, i decided to grab my smartphone and kick the tires on the usb battery.  as you can see in the image, the device thinks it’s plugged in.  you should be able to use any low power device that charges via usb.

how it works

the zener diode conducts in the reverse direction when its breakdown voltage of 5.1 volts is reached, and the voltage across the diode will be that same 5.1 volts, so it acts to limit our 9 volt supply down to roughly 5 volts, which is what usb powers devices at.

the resistor is there to keep the circuit from shorting when the load (your shuffle) is removed.  if you use a resistor less than 100 ohms you’ll know it because it will get hot.  if you use too large a resistor, you won’t be able to supply enough current to your device.

finish the job
usb battery solder
as you can see, i’m pretty nasty at soldering.  i’m under strict orders from cl to keep this tiny and pocket sized for the ipod, so i’ve tried to cram everything as tight as possible.  as soon as minneapolis warms up enough for the ipods to migrate, i’ll be making a custom case for this.

till then, please send in your comments, ideas, and hacks.  i look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Comments

  1. Taylor says:

    I was Told it was dangerous to put a battery in a metal box..is this true? I was planning on using my altoids gum box for it… And which wire on the usb wires is the firewire?

  2. Taylor says:

    maybe i should ask what are the white and green wires for on a usb cord?

  3. nick says:

    hi jason u dont know me but i saw your hack on hack a day.com and i was inspired by your usb charger so i decided to make my own. i used a usb-mouse adaptor and gutted it i then used a female power plug from sompthing(i cant rember what it was) and put it in i put all of your parts in the device and now i have a portable charger.my next goal is to get make a car atachment.thanks allot for the websight hack and an insperation. for some pictures or comments please email me at ngal@shaw.ca

  4. Dan Surdyk says:

    Buy a cheap 4-port USB adaptor and voila! four female USB sockets! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this (the battery adaptor). Thanks!

  5. I actually had plans for something much simpler… and that’s just taking usb ports off an old motherboard, and soldering the wires from the female 9 volt battery attachment to the positive and negative ends that went to the motherboard, so that the current would still flow through it, and 5 volts would still go out to the USB device as necessary to charge it. Just a thought, but this is sort of the discount version, not requiring any resistors, seeing that the USB ports should provide resistance on their own, right?

  6. corey says:

    just use an altiods tin for a housing

  7. rgs4627 says:

    well i tried this on a ipod 30g….it didnt charge…it said it was charging but it wasnt…no damage at all i did everything….no prob…ipod dose have an automatic shit of when the charge cable shorts….i was modding a car adapter for wall….diddnt know pinouts lol….but you can make a car adapter into a car/wall adapter…

  8. rgs4627 says:

    well i tried this on a ipod 30g….it didnt charge…it said it was charging but it wasnt…no damage at all i did everything….no prob…ipod dose have an automatic shut off when the charge cable shorts….i was modding a car adapter for wall….diddnt know pinouts lol….but you can make a car adapter into a car/wall adapter……i used a griffin car adapter instead

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  10. battman says:

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  11. Marc says:

    I am finding solar panels on Ebay. That would bypass the need for a battery.

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  14. jonny says:

    I DID NOT GET THAT TO WORK IS THERE A DIAGRAM? IM GETING 5V

  15. jonny says:

    I MIGHT NOT HAVE GOT IT RIGHT I GOT 5.8V BUT NO CHARGE WHATS GOIN ON HERE?

  16. mikey says:

    I Made it the same way. but i can’t upload my iPhone.
    Can anybody help me?

  17. merringer says:

    i was gonna take a 5v psp battery and solder wires going directly from that to the usb to charge my ipod and i was just wondering if that would work properly… any answers?

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  19. MR. Jon says:

    this is retarded. it will create 5 volts but with the give resistance it will only supply something around 20 ma, most 5 volt chargers start around 500 ma. even with a 100 0hm resistor its still only about 50 ma. this is a inefficient toy, go get a 7805.

  20. Rioiek says:

    I was thinking about 4 rechargeble AA or AAA:

    4 times 1.2 = 4.8 volts. USB specs says: 4.5-5 volt is okay..

    No other components needed imho..

    I haven’t tried this myself, anyone wants to give it a go?

    About the 12/9volts zener or 7805: if you are looking for a very efficient batterypack, consider the Recom R-78B5.0-1.5 .. it doesn’t “burn” the extra voltages but transforms them efficiently to 5 volts.. not cheap, approx $20..

  21. coolmike8789 says:

    Couldn’t you do this with a 5v regulator?

  22. Réginald says:

    Why not use a 7805 instead of the Zener ???

    7805’s are easy to find and they do not draw any significant current on idle… Keep the resistor as a current limiting device, but you shall be aware that a shunt Zener diode will draw a lots of current even when no device is plugged in the USB port.

  23. kevin says:

    didnt work

  24. FColon says:

    Would two rechargeable CR123 batteries with a 7805 WORK???

  25. joe says:

    can you charge the battery if you plug it in the computer

  26. Parvez Hassan says:

    can any one suggest how to use a 6v lead acid battery for making a 5v usb supply

  27. james says:

    Greetings,
    Scrap the zener and simply run the current through enough common switching diodes to drop the voltage down from the source to the 5v level. You could hook a lantern battery to this in series with a common switching diode and be set. The voltage drop is usually 0.9 to 1.2 volts per diode and no current is lost across the zener or voltage regulator. Make sure your diodes can handle the forward current consumed by the device you’re charging.

  28. Johny Radio says:

    “the 7805 regulator will not give very good battery life since it starts to go out of regulation when the battery has dropped to only 7 volts. A better solution is to use a “Low Dropout Regulator” also known as an LDO. The LDO works with a lower voltage across it before it stops regulating. A popular example is an LM2940-CT-5.0. It is an LDO that fits into the same socket as a 7805 but has can still regulate with less than 1 volt across it. Now our 6 volt output from the 9 volt battery is enough to still get 5 volts.”
    http://www.bluebelldesign.com/Power1.htm

    LM2940 can be had for under $1 US (incl shipping) from eBay, or about $1.50 (plus shipping) from Mouser.

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